InuYasha Anime Review
Dog Demonic Warrior
US Release By
Feudal Japanese Supernatural Action
167 25-minute episodes
2000-10-16 - 2004-09-13
Kagome Higarashi is your stereotypical normal anime high-schooler; her only unusual trait is that her grandfather owns a Shinto shrine. One day, she wanders into an old outbuilding after a cat, and falls into a well. When she emerges, she finds herself in Feudal Japan. It turns out that she's the reincarnation of a powerful priestess named Kikyo, who was the keeper of a jewel called the Shikon Jewel that could give great power to whoever held it. Before dying, Kikyo bound an irate dog-eared demon named Inu-Yasha ("dog demon") to a tree with a magical arrow. Kagome, using her special powers (which are actually quite useless) frees Inu-Yasha from the tree to fight an attacking demon named Mistress Centipede. However, while trying to retrieve the Shikon Jewel from a fleeing demonic crow, Kagome accidentally screws up and shatters it into a million pieces. Since Inu-Yasha wants the jewel to become a full demon, (he's only a half demon) he and Kagome set out to recover all the pieces, along the way meeting strange allies with weird powers, such as Miroku, the monk with a black hole in his hand, Sango, the demon hunter who throws a massive boomerang, and Shippo, the useless fox child. They also encounter enemies, such as Sesshomarou, Inu-Yasha's full-demon half-brother (it's confusing) and the malevolent Naraku, who've all got a bone to pick with one of the characters for one reason or another.
Inu-Yasha is yet another from Rumiko Takahashi (I can never keep all her works straight, but I know Ranma 1/2 is one of them, and I believe Urusei Yatsura as well). It's pretty weird, like Ranma 1/2, but in most respects not really very similar. I've only seen very little of Ranma 1/2, but it seems to me that Inu-Yasha has a bit more fighting to it. Don't get me wrong, though, it has its fair share of humor, such as the magical necklace that Inu-Yasha wears for Kagome to keep him under her control, which causes him to fall on his face whenever she says "Sit, boy!" The characters are also very quirky, most of them having some bizarre personality disorder.
The story sounds pretty unoriginal, and it is. Despite heavy Japanese mythological references, (many of which were already done in Blue Seed) the main storyline is one we're all quite familiar with. In fact, it could almost be the storyline of a sixteen-bit RPG. To make things worse, it drags along in some places. The series does deserve credit, however, for doing something with the unoriginal storyline, although it could still be an RPG.
The characters, for example, do a lot to keep the story going. The "demon of the week" fights grow stale pretty quickly, but when the demons of the week themselves are as interesting as, for example, Koga, the not-so-bad-after-all leader of the wolf demon tribe, it does a lot to help it keep moving. The main characters are also rather interesting. Inu-Yasha reminds me a lot of Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho; his irate anti-hero attitude and inelegant fighting style are almost identical. Power-wise, he's the least interesting of the bunch, wielding a transforming sword made from a giant fang of his father called the Tetsusaiga. Kagome, who eventually manages to tame him down, is quite possibly the most annoying average girl I've ever seen (partially due to her dub voice, which I'll get into later. Suffice to say that if you've ever seen the dubbed version of Hamtaro, or Tottoko Hamutaro, it's the same voice as Laura). Her powers are also utterly useless; she carries a bow and arrow, but can't use them very well, and she often ends up being carried off slung over the shoulder of one of the bad guys.
Miroku, Sango, and Shippo are all quite likable, however. Miroku is a lecherous Buddhist monk, whose family is cursed to have a black hole in their right hands that can suck up anything in its path. This is possibly the coolest power in the entire anime, rendered in impressive computer-generated animation. Miroku is also the main source of both information and comic relief, mostly due to his decidedly not monk-like personality (he feels up girls, goes drinking, and cons rich people out of their possessions). Sango is the tragic character of the show; her village of demon-slaying brethren was destroyed by main bad guy Naraku, and her brother turned against her. She seems to cope with this remarkably well, and remains quiet and solemn. Her weapon is also pretty cool, though unrealistic; she throws a boomerang that's about the same height as she is, which can cut through armies of demons before returning to her. Shippo, last of all, is a precocious fox child (a Japanese mythological reference) who can create illusions and transform into anything that won't be useful in battle. He (he resembles a girl) can be pretty funny, and also fills the role of a cute animal character.
The bad guys and minor characters are mostly interesting as well; undoubtedly, the most popular is Sesshomarou, Inu-Yasha's evil brother, but some others, such as Koga and even Kikyo herself, are well done also. Unfortunately, Naraku, the main bad guy, is shallowly-characterized and is not shown to have any kind of power that would make him worthy of being a main bad guy.
This show is technically very strong. The animation is excellent and is computer aided at some points. The characters are designed very well, and it seems that since every character is supposed to be Japanese, they were all actually given black hair (other than demons like Inu-Yasha and Sesshomarou). The costumes worn are also flamboyant and yet seem Feudal Japanese, such as Inu-Yasha's bright red kimono, Sesshomarou's white, accompanied by an odd fur mantle, and Miroku's darkly-colored Buddhist monk robes (Sango's looks a bit out of place, however). Of course, Kagome just won't give up her sailor suit. The BGMs were mostly just average, but I do like the openings and endings (my favorite being the second opening). The openings were unfortunately not shown, (this is Cartoon Network we're talking about) but I'm sure they're present on the DVD.
The bad part of this show, technically, however, is the dub. It's not horrible, but it is The Ocean Group. As I said, Kagome's voice is extremely annoying. It comes across too nasal. Inu-Yasha's voice is very fitting, and one of the best of the lot. Miroku, Sango, and Shippo also have fitting voices, although their acting can be a bit suspect. The best-acted are probably the recurring enemies (I'd single out Sesshomarou, with his quiet, self-assured tone, but Koga is also acted expertly). Unfortunately the writing in the dub is awful, not really because it's so bad but because it's so mediocre. A comparable dub would probably be that of Pokemon, since there's a lot of lines repeated in different words by another character. So, if there is a good dub voice, such as Inu-Yasha's or Sesshomarou's, it is completely ruined by the writing, and the problem amplifies exponentially when the acting is bad in the first place (a la Kagome). Coming from a studio that did the dub of G Gundam, though, I'm not expecting much. I haven't seen the Japanese version, but I'm hoping it's much better.
For anyone who's seen the show, I've got a few nitpicks. This will be of absolutely no interest to anyone who's never seen the show, and you should probably skip it, because it may contain spoilers. First of all, Kagome and Inu-Yasha do eventually end up falling in love. While it's kind of nice that they don't just wheedle over it the entire show, and actually recognize their feelings, these two must be the most mismatched pair ever. Not in a funny way, just in an unbelievable way. It can also be a bit irritating that the show focuses so much on them. For example, in Tenchi Muyo, most people's favorite characters weren't Tenchi and Ayeka. Most people like Ryouko, Sasami, or even Washuu. While you Ryouko fans got what you wanted, watching Inu-Yasha is a bit like how it is for a Sasami fan to watch the majority of Tenchi Muyo. Inu-Yasha and Kagome are probably my least favorite characters, (except for Naraku) and yet there are these others (Miroku, Sango, and Shippo, and even Sesshomarou) who are repeatedly shafted to the back row in favor of the two characters I don't like. There's also Inu-Yasha and Kikyo's former relationship; it's all solved WAY too simply when Kikyo comes back to life, yet after being solved so simply, it keeps cropping up and being solved way too simply yet again. Then there are the dragging story segments, one of which is Kikyo's return to life; they simply hobble languidly over tons of episodes, not being resolved and not causing anything interesting. Perhaps it just seems slow to me, though.
So, in the end, Inu-Yasha is an old-fashioned anime enjoyable by any and all audiences as long as they've been into anime for a while. Comparable to Ranma 1/2, I wouldn't show this to a neophyte; the bad dubbing and volume of things Japanese would probably drive them away. However, if you have a fair amount of knowledge about Japanese culture, (and especially Feudal Japan) check it out. You'll probably like it. A no-brainer if you're a Ranma fan.
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Notes and Trivia
Based on the lengthy manga of the same name by Rumiko Takahashi, creator of a number of long-running and incredibly popular series, including Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, and Mezon Ikkoku. The manga is available in English from VIZ. There is also an "InuYasha Ani-Manga" available from VIZ, full-color books with art from the animated version.
There seems to be some debate over the right way to spell the series' name; Cartoon Network and the DVDs appear to use "InuYasha," VIZ's website uses "Inuyasha," and it's also frequently written "Inu Yasha" or "Inu-Yasha." The 3-character Japanese word is probably most accurately written as a single word, but it's not really wrong to write it hyphenated or as two words, since it is a combination of "inu" (dog) and "yasha" (demonic warrior; also Buddhist guardian deity).
US DVD Review
VIZ's DVDs are not what you'd call affordable; each bilingual disc includes only three episodes and not much in the way of special features. As of this writing discs through the mid-40s are available, and there should be either 55 or 56 discs total when the series is complete, some time in 2007. At a suggested price of $25 each, that's a lot of money. The series is also being re-released on somewhat more reasonably priced 5-disc box sets of 27 episodes each. The box sets come in regular or "Deluxe" editions, with the pricier version including a series-themed trinket of some sort.
Violence: 3 - There are some human deaths, and the demons do bleed.
Nudity: 2 - Always covered by water and/or a towel.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Some romance, a bit of innuendo, but nothing serious.
Language: 1 - Nothing notable.